Tranexamic Acid Is a Buzzy New Ingredient That Works Wonders on Dark Spots

POPSUGAR Photography | Diggy Lloyd
POPSUGAR Photography | Diggy Lloyd

There are so many skin-care ingredients to bear in mind when looking for new skin-care products, and it can get a little (read: very) confusing. However, doing your research is a great way to not only ensure you're buying the right item but also that you're getting the most out of it. Hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, and retinol all have incredible benefits and are now commonplace in the beauty world. However, there are other ingredients that are just as powerful but haven't yet made it into our everyday skin-care vocabulary, one being tranexamic acid, a hero that can help those concerned with hyperpigmentation and melasma.

Keep reading to find out more about tranexamic acid, like its benefits and how to use it in your skin-care routine.

What Is Tranexamic Acid For Skin?

So, what exactly is tranexamic acid? It started as a prescription medication used to mimic our natural amino acid, lysine. "It's often used during surgery and in the case of [accidents] and emergencies as a haemostatic agent," which controls or stops heavy bleeding, aesthetic doctor Hayder Ria, MD, tells POPSUGAR. However, it is now being used as an effective treatment for pigmentation and brightening skin. "Tranexamic acid interferes with the structure of plasminogen in the skin to reduce the effect of ultraviolet radiation on skin cells (keratinocytes). This leads to a reduction in the production of a natural pigment called melanin, which makes our skin darker and can cause discoloration on the skin such as pigmentation."

Tranexamic Acid's Benefits

Dermatologist Tiina Meder, MD, explains: "Tranexamic acid provides a powerful and specific anti-inflammatory action" and stops pigmentation from forming under the skin. At the same time, it blocks the transfer of pigment, while also calming the skin and helping to restore the skin barrier. It works well for those who are bothered by their pigmentation or melasma, "a condition where melanin production in certain patches of skin is increased and leads to irregular darkening of the skin," says Dr. Ria, noting that the ingredient can also be useful for people who have "high levels of estrogen, such as women who are pregnant or on the contraceptive pill."

Getty | Sofia Polukhina

Tranexamic Acid Side Effects

In general, the ingredient is safe, says Dr. Meder. "Tranexamic acid is a safe and effective treatment that acts differently compared with acids of hydroquinone treatments," which is known to be in many skin-lightening products. Dr. Ria notes that "there are studies showing the effect of tranexamic acid on reducing skin pigmentation, [however] this has not yet been verified in any major trials yet, which is why lots of people continue to question how effective it is as a treatment." Dr. Meder also warns that although tranexamic acid is effective for treating melasma, it won't work on freckles or age spots. Products containing tranexamic acid are very popular for treatment after an IPL or laser treatment. "This is especially true in sunny states because it keeps the UV sensitivity of the skin under control," she said.

How to Use Tranexamic Acid For Skin

Though you can technically use tranexamic acid any time of day, doctors recommend incorporating it into your nighttime skin-care routine. It should come after you cleanse your skin and before you apply moisturizer, similar to your other serums. Though it mixes well with other ingredients for brightening, like vitamin C, you should exercise caution when using it in combination with other skin-care acids.

Additional reporting by Jessica Harrington